Coronavirus created more ‘Rich List’ billionaires than ever

The City of London representing the Rich List

It’s official: the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic saw the richest people in the UK increase their wealth to over half a trillion pounds. 2020 saw more people become billionaires than ever before. That’s the verdict of the latest “Rich List”. But of course, for the rest of us, life wasn’t that fruitful.

The Rich List just gets richer

As PA reported, the Sunday Times Rich List showed that there are now a record 171 billionaires in the UK. Ukrainian-born Leonard Blavatnik tops the pile as the richest person in the country. He’s an oil and media investor. Blavatnik saw his fortune surge by £7.2bn to around £23bn during the year of the pandemic. His business interests include Warner Music, which he sold a £1.37bn stake in when it listed in the US last year.

But as the Sunday Times tweeted, it was a record year for its Rich List:

PA reported that the number of UK billionaires jumped by 24%. Their wealth rose by 21.7% over the year, going up by £106.5bn to £597.2bn. How odd, when compared to the wealth of the UK as a whole:

“Unsettling”

So, these are the 10 ‘fattest cats’ in the UK according to the Rich List:

  • Leonard Blavatnik – £23bn.
  • David and Simon Reuben – £21.46bn.
  • Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family – £17bn.
  • James Dyson and family – £16.3bn.
  • Lakshmi Mittal and family – £14.68bn.
  • Alisher Usmanov – £13.4bn.
  • Kirsten and Jorn Rausing – £13bn.
  • Roman Abramovich – £12.1bn.
  • Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho – £12.01bn.
  • Guy, George, Alannah and Galen Weston and family – £11bn.

But even the Sunday Times had to admit that this sharp increase in the wealthiest people’s wealth was obscene. PA reported that compiler of the Rich List Robert Watts said:

The global pandemic created lucrative opportunities for many online retailers, social networking apps and computer games tycoons.

The fact many of the super-rich grew so much wealthier at a time when thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us worried for our livelihoods makes this a very unsettling boom.

A nightmare for the rest of us

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, the pandemic has been nothing short of a nightmare.

It’s been marked by an increase in precariousness, poverty, and destitution for many people in the UK. As The Canary has documented, this is the reality if you didn’t make the Rich List:

  • The number of households living in destitution doubled in 2020.
  • Four in ten people who needed financial support to self-isolate couldn’t get it.
  • Chaos with Universal Credit included researchers slamming the contentious £20 uplift as “inadequate”.
  • Half a million people entitled to Universal Credit didn’t claim it due to the complexity of the system, for fear of looking like ‘scroungers’, and other reasons.
  • Unicef fed hungry children in the UK for the first time in its history.
  • The Trussell Trust saw food parcels it gave to children increase in number by 107% in 2020.
  • The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) said that it saw an 88% increase in overall use between February and October 2020.
  • The Trussell Trust said it saw a 47% increase in “need” between 1 April and 30 September 2020. It gave out 1.2m food parcels.
  • By November 2020, almost 700,000 more people were in poverty than before the pandemic. This included 120,000 more children.

And moreover, the poorest communities saw the highest coronavirus death rates. As The Canary previously reported, some attribute this in part to years of social security reform.

As one Twitter user summed up:

How’s that “levelling up” going now, Boris Johnson? Because the only levelling up so far has been for the Rich List billionaires.

Featured image and additional reporting via PA

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